All I could do was shake my head when I heard about the police shooting in Ferguson, MO. Another Black teen shot dead by the police; why is this such a familiar story? There are of course two versions of the events. One reported by the police, who claim the young man was the aggressor. And another by a witness, victim Michael Brown had his hands in the air when he was shot “like an animal.” I believe the former. Black boys are raised to not challenge the police. We teach them to capitulate at an early age: use non-threatening language, keep your hands visible, look the police in the eye, etc. Every Black male in this country is taught these rules by their elders. We teach our sons these rules to help them escape the brutal wrath of the police; and yet the police still attack our sons without abandon.
Michael Brown was 17 at the time of his murder. He had just graduated from high school and was on his way to college. He had already escaped many of the indicators that would mark him as a statistic rather than a collegiate. On this fateful day, he was simply walking down the street with a friend. It was hot, he had on flip flops and saggy shorts. A police car driving down the street, pulled behind the two young men and demanded the two “get the fuck on the sidewalk.” The witness claimed they told the officer they would get on the sidewalk. The officer reportedly tried to open his car door, which according to the witness hit both he and Brown because they were so close to the police car. The officer got out of the vehicle and claimed that he would shoot. According to the witness, he began to shoot just as soon as he warned the two men. Brown was shoot several times by the officer which led to the death.
I wasn’t there. I’ve never been to Ferguson. Never meet Michael Brown or had any encounter with the Ferguson police department, but I know what happened. I know it in my heart. A video was released by the Ferguson police department weeks later supposedly showing Brown strong-arming a store clerk for cigars right before Brown’s encounter with the officer. But the police department conveniently failed to release part of the video, the part that shows Brown at the counter looking like he was paying for those said cigars. At some point in the footage some type of verbal confrontation erupts between Brown and the store clerk. It is not obvious what is being said or what is happening, but the clerk does come from behind the counter and puts his hands on Brown. Brown then reacts and puts his hands back on the store clerk.
The citizens of Ferguson are up in arms. Protests have erupted night-after-night, but they will be for not. Why? Because our people have forgotten how to fight, and we have no attention span. Most of us have what we want – smartphones, flat screens, a house in the suburbs – we quite honestly have become complacent because we don’t feel deprived. Added to our complacency, our technology and culture discourage us from paying attention to anything for longer than 5 minutes. A tweet, an instant news blurb is all we have time for. We can’t be bothered to think about anything longer than a news cycle. That’s what happened to Trayvon Martin. They knew we’d forget. They know we are too satisfied with stuff, to put too much energy into a fight.
I hate to say it, but I fear that this will be just another Black teen shot by the police. Soon forgotten, as we momentarily move onto the next tragedy.
This could still be my son one day. How do I protect my Black boy from this fate? Do I give him weekly lessons on how to deal with the pigs, as if he’s some kind of slave navigating the confines of his life. I’m stuck, I’ve run out of answers because this is not a fair question.